Bishop Morneau of the Catholic Church wrote this prayer, “Lord Jesus, purify our desires. Help us to long for what really matters and help us to be done with things that are insignificant…”
I’ve always wondered since that time years ago what might have happened to me if our neighbour Joe had not come with his axe. As I tell you this story you will see that the time and happenings are all in God’s hands. His angels are quick, so very quick to be involved. And you’ll understand why I write about such a crisis, for if it had gone the other way, I’d never made it to Brazil.
A baptism in the interior of São Paulo state where we lived and ministered. what a privilege to be in Brazil and encourage folks in following Jesus as Lord and Saviour.
It was the spring of the year when my sister and I formed a simple conspiracy to explore the new farm my dad had bought. Each night a white frost laid its touch on grass and trees making this the right time of the year for Maple trees to lend their sap to make syrup. About a ten minute walk for our young legs—she was about nine and me ten at the time—and those legs took us back across the brown stubble of a hay field towards a dark woods. We by-passed the swamp and Dog Lake to follow the farm trail around a huge rock cliff then up the hill. On more level ground we followed the line fence with its row of Soft Maples.
This picture is a few years before this story unfolded, but there is Alma my sister, myself and a cousin, Hollis Mainse. Pictures are scarce from that time.
That was when the trouble began for I had watched my dad boil down the sap from Sugar Maples to make the sweet syrup. One of those trees had a streak of sap marking its trunk; that was an invitation for me to try its sweetness. Since it was sweet I surmised wrongly that it might be sweeter closer to where the sap oozed from the bark. A new purpose sprang into my mind. I’d climb that tree but I never thought it would make me pay for the taste I’d taken. You see the Soft Maple is set apart from the Sugar Maple for the trunk often divides into a very narrow V.
That is the way it was that day. I was about ten feet up in my climb when I placed a foot in that narrow crotch though that was no problem. But when I put my weight on that foot to climb further the tree grabbed my foot so securely I could not get it loose. My sister watched my struggles from below till I fell over backwards with my foot held more securely in the bite of those arms of unyielding wood. My sister could not reach me and even so she would not have been able to lift me to be released.
I was becoming desperate. “Run, get mother ,” I cried out. With that she headed for the house and though it was a long hike for her within the half hour mother returned. Though mother could reach me yet there was no possibility of removing my foot especially since it was more painful by the minute. Her solution was to return to the house as fast as she could, cross the road to another farm house and explain her problem in gasping breaths to Joe.
It must have been another half hour before Joe and his axe made his way with mother back cross the fields, up the hill to the tree that held me prisoner. But the pressure on my foot and my suffering meant only one thing—cut down half of the trunk that held my foot. I’m vague about this part of the story but of this I am sure, Joe laid all of his strength into making those wood chips fly.
Soon I was on the ground and hobbling towards the house—with a red face. You see, with my head down for at least an hour the blood that had been forced into my skin and remained there. Even after a couple of days I still had something of a red face though part of that might have been embarrassment.
Dad had been away that day but when he returned and heard the story his response was, “I’d have gotten him down. No need to cut that tree.” To hear that almost made me faint for I felt once again my twisted foot pinched between the parts of the tree trunk.
There are questions I’ve asked myself during the seventy-five years since that painful escapade. Why was it that mother that day did not go with dad on his errands and as a result leave me alone hung up in the tree? I wonder why my young sister was with me for often I explored that farm by myself. As well, since farmers are always busy how did it happen that Joe was not out of reach of my mother, perhaps working in his back forty?
The answer I’ve learned over the years is that God’s wisdom, his plans and his love are often beyond our understanding. That sort of trust often grows slowly until one day the light dawns, explaining most problems. That isbecause of a total commitment a person makes to Him as our Eternal Father. An old hymn speaks to this issue, “Just as I am without one plea, but that thy blood was shed for me, and that thou bidd’st I come to thee…” then the surrender, “…Oh lamb of God I come, I come.”